Lawyers in Oakland County fondly refer to Wednesday as cattle call day because Wednesday is miscellaneous motion call. A motion requests a judge to make a decision on an issue and one of the issues argued last Wednesday was if a divorce court can require a parent to take a child to church?
My opposing counsel asked the judge to require my client to take her minor child to church. While my client semi-regularly attends church, she did not want to be mandated to do so during her parenting time. The father argued that since the child has attended the same church for years and it was in the child’s best interest to continue to do so.
The legal question remained. Can a divorce court require a parent to take a child to church?
The Friend of the Court issued a non-binding recommendation mandating my client take her child to church once per month over my objections. I firmly informed the Friend of the Court counselor that she lacked authority to do so relying on the first amendment of the United States Constitution. The referee requested we speak to the Judge.
Amendment I of the United States Constitution provides:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The Establishment Clause
The phrase: “respecting an establishment of religion” is called the Establishment Clause by legal scholars.
Think about these questions:
- What if the parent does not personally believe in the teachings of the church? For example, the parent is Lutheran and the church is Baptist?
- Is being religious better than not being religious?
In this case, the trial court disagreed with the recommendations of the Friend of the Court referee and did not require my client take her child to Church on her parenting time days.
Every once in a while, we look to the most important legal document in the United States, the constitution. Every law must be “constitutional” and requiring a parent to take a child to Church is not constitutional.
About Findling Law:
I have been in practice for almost 20 years and practice exclusively in divorce and family law. My practice includes several attorneys who share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their life, without compromising principles. We have extensive experience in high socio-economic, high profile and high conflict cases which has nurtured a skill set applicable to all divorce and family law cases regardless of socio-economic status. We recognize that it is the application of the law that is most important aspect of practice. That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm.
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By: Daniel Findling